Friday, August 5, 2016

The Pipeline: Impatiently Traveling The Road to Ballhalla

Screaming at my broken thumbs in this 3D platforming puzzler.

Posted By on August 5, 2016, 9:23 AM

Puzzle games: The ultimate tests of a gamer's skill, intelligence and irritation levels. There's never anything worse than feeling the bile rise up in your throat as you're ready to scream at everyone and everything around you when you can't nail down the answer to a level. But, that emotion pales in comparison to the feeling when you put the pieces together and conquer the round. Both of those emotions get cranked to 11 in tinyBuild Games latest 3D platform puzzler, Road To Ballhalla, which just came out Aug. 5 on Steam.

click to enlarge Wait, what? You've got text to help and taunt me. ...Can't wait. - TINYBUILD GAMES
  • tinyBuild Games
  • Wait, what? You've got text to help and taunt me. ...Can't wait.

Developed by Torched Hill, the game is made to look simplistic on the outside. You're in control of a ball— much like those BB-8 figures that got big after The Force Awakens came out—with the goal of making your way through a maze. Along the way, you collect tiny objects of light that act as achievements, tools and checkpoints throughout each level. Early on you'll be presented with new challenges to get you used to the games controls, such as taking away the walls or adding lasers that will destroy your ball into a pile of digital glass. The game feels like it's one part Pac-Man, one part Portal, one part Marble Madness and one part Crypt Of The NecroDancer all rolled into a challenging burrito of fun.

click to enlarge Oh yeah? If you're seeing my face change colors, you're slowly killing me with rage. - TINYBUILD GAMES
  • tinyBuild Games
  • Oh yeah? If you're seeing my face change colors, you're slowly killing me with rage.

Something really badass about the gameplay is that the music plays a significant role in a lot of your victories. Throughout the game, you'll encounter red tiles that basically burn you and take away your health. However, there's a pattern to their madness, and following along with the beat ends up being beneficial. But if you start screwing up, it's easy to get off beat, and you'll find yourself dying frequently. The game is super forgiving when it comes to messing up, as it places a lot of the white checkpoint orbs throughout the levels, but it isn't forgiving on the overall score, which goes down the more you die.  The better you do in each level, the more points you earn to unlock new areas.  It's fairly easy to progress in the game until you hit the hardcore levels, at which point you'll find yourself going back with new skills and reflexes to improve on your past attempts.

click to enlarge Really? I gotta bend my head to read that while pulling off this sweet spin? - TINYBUILD GAMES
  • tinyBuild Games
  • Really? I gotta bend my head to read that while pulling off this sweet spin?

The big sticking points that will frustrate gamers come when the game decides to not only flip the script and make fun of your downfalls, but flips the board to challenge your skills at perception. I found myself on several levels having to twist and turn my controller around after the 3D elements were shifted and tilted the level on its axis. This is an amazing piece of gameplay that gets overlooked in a lot of titles that experiment with the environment and challenge the player to try something they've never attempted before. (Well, except for those guys who play Mike Tyson's Punchout blindfolded with the controller sideways, but to hell with that noise!) This tiny innovation to the model will piss a lot of people off, but I had fun with it as it provoked me into thinking beyond the box and trying something I'm not used to. That kind of element deserves respect.

click to enlarge You can't see it, but I'm playing with my controller upsidedown. - TINYBUILD GAMES
  • tinyBuild Games
  • You can't see it, but I'm playing with my controller upsidedown.

Road To Ballhalla is by far one of the best puzzlers I've ever played in my life. I wasn't deterred by failure; I was determined. I didn't feel like I was being mocked, and the encouragement didn't feel sarcastic, like a lot of recent puzzle games have tried to incorporate. If this game had a living conscience inside of it, I believe it would want me to beat it to so it could find the one person equal to its skill. But it doesn't—which makes the whole thing harmless fun. Any age can get into it, the lessons aren't hard to learn and the challenge makes it all worth wild. With a price tag of only $12, this makes a fantastic game for the family to play, a party or drinking game with friends, or a personal self-indulgence to prove how quick and awesome you are. Highly recommend it, go check it out.

click to enlarge Hey, a grammar joke and a Back To The Future reference! Okay, that was clever. - TINYBUILD GAMES
  • tinyBuild Games
  • Hey, a grammar joke and a Back To The Future reference! Okay, that was clever.

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